Hey everybody! I’m fourth-week-Maya, and I say it that way because with every incoming week I have been completely changing my opinions and interests toward everything I’m experimenting with in the labs, especially with my ideas for the independent project. But eventually, finally compressing my thoughts with the pressure of two hours that I have sabotaged myself into leaving before the due time, I have finally settled upon a topic: lucid dreaming. Which strangely is also the first topic I had thought of experimenting with from the very first time I clicked upon TRIP’s website and landed upon the application. Even though I have personally never had a lucid dream, I am absolutely fascinated by the very act of it and how the mind could possibly subject a subconsciousness during a time of total unconsciousness.
The way I see it, all dreams are purposely created by our brains, but we do not necessarily understand the purpose because most of the time, they’re more of the leftovers of the memory-ordering process our brains go through during sleep. And my hypothesis is if flies could possibly have increased REM-sleep - the most vivid stage of our sleep - then their cognitive ability and memory would drastically improve. Although my biggest fear is that this hypothesis is going to turn out to be wrong, it is something I have also prepared myself to embrace.
That is the greatest mindset that TRIP has been teaching me to develop, even throughout these first few weeks. For there have been times where my results have been so insanely different than what should have naturally occured - and sometimes even the complete opposite of the proven result. But whether that matters or not is completely dependent on the way you’re going to swallow in not just the process but every other external factor that you’re completely blind to. We might go through this entire experience without ever completely distinguishing what these factors are, but at least we’ll be leaving with the knowledge that there’s something else out there that still needs to be discovered.
Hi again! For the past couple weeks I have learned so much about how to use new lab equipment, how to record and analyze data, and how to present my findings! In these past weeks, I have been focusing on how licorice and soap affect the gut microbiome. I completed my first assay last week on the microbiome where I would analyze different species of bacteria that grow on an agar plate. At first it was a little daunting, but now that I have experience I feel much more confident in my lab work and abilities.
In the next upcoming weeks, we are now going to start working on our own independent projects! I am very excited to begin my own research and be learning about something of my choice. I loved meeting everyone in the TRIP family for the past weeks, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s projects!
Hello everyone! I’m back!
Wow. Last time I wrote, I was just starting my first experiment. And now, I’ve already finished it!
Soap causes intestinal inflammation and reduces the number and diversity of gut bacteria, and my goal was to observe whether Uva-ursi had a positive, negative, or negligible impact when combined with soap. I originally predicted that Uva-ursi would have a negative impact on the gut bacteria of flies, but my experimental results suggested the opposite.
To do my experiment, I used the microbiome assay to isolate and grow gut bacteria from my flies. Basically, I took five flies, drowned them in alcohol (to get rid of any exterior bacteria), added the flies to an MRS solution, diluted said solution, and then streaked the diluted solution on an agar plate, which was then incubated for a week. Whew! Although the microbiome assay is easy to perform, it takes a long time to obtain results. In fact, in the presentation I had to give about my experiment, I wasn’t able to include my experimental results because I was only able to see my agar plates a few minutes before my presentation. However, the main purpose of my presentation was to teach my classmates about my assay, not about my results, so everything went well despite my lack of presentable data.
Anyways, now that my first experiment is done, I can begin my independent research project! I don’t know yet for sure what I’m going to be doing, but I think I have a pretty good idea. Research suggests that a ketogenic diet helps with recovery from traumatic head injuries, and for my experiment, I’d like to test whether different lipids (with different fatty acid chain lengths) can improve the memory of flies with head trauma. Right now, I’m thinking of using four different lipids - butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and mustard oil. I don’t know for sure whether this experiment is possible, nor do I know whether it will work, but I’m hoping for the best!
After countless days of wondering, researching, and being consumed by thoughts of fruit flies, I have finally come up with an idea for my independent research project. I will be researching how eating at different times or for different amounts of time affects overall health and the gut microbiome. New diets appear every so often, but there has been a recent trend of time-restricted diets, in which a person is only able to eat for 8 hours each day. The remaining 15 hours are to be a fasting period. Another popular diet has been eating small portions 6 times a day, rather than normal-sized portions 3 times a day. Many people are beginning to utilize these diets in order to lose weight, but I want to discover if they have actually have any additional benefits, apart from weight loss.
Unless you love cutting heads off of fruit flies, you should probably reread the procedure a million times before you actually start the procedure.
This week, we conducted our assays that we were assigned to in the beginning of the course. I studied the effect of cinnamon and high sugar on glucose metabolism in fruit flies. Even though the assay was pretty complex, involving multiple machines and different devices, everything went well in the beginning. I was learning a lot, and things became a little bit easier for me.
For my assay, I had to cut the heads off of some flies. It was kind of disgusting at first, but I eventually got used to it and began killing the flies like it was a normal thing to do. In the picture, the rightmost side contains the heads and the middle section contains the flies without their heads. I didn’t realize that the heads were so small, and that made it a lot harder to find and cut off.
For my independent project, I’m still exactly sure what I want to do or what I want to focus on. Testing memory sounds interesting to me since that can have many real-life implications. I was also thinking about addressing sleep since I know a lot of my friends are not getting enough sleep. Therefore, my tentative experiment is to see the effects of sleep amounts on memory, but this could definitely change as I look into other ideas.
When TRIP began, I was admittedly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to develop an idea for my independent project in time. But here I am, having just submitted my plan for the project! I am intrigued by genetics, but I don’t have enough knowledge or experience in the field to conduct a true genetic experiment. Instead, I am doing an epigenetic experiment; I will be modifying the way in which fruit fly genes are expressed. I will administer Hydralazine, a drug that inhibits DNA methylation, to female flies and observe the drug’s effects on the flies’ offspring. DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that attaches methyl groups to cytosine nucleotides. These nucleotides are usually positioned next to guanine nucleotides so that there can be methylated cytosine nucleotides directly diagonal to each other on the double-stranded DNA molecule.
Many drugs are able to induce epigenetic changes in eggs, so I would predict that if Hydralazine were to do the same, it would induce hypomethylation in eggs just like it does in adults. Methylation patterns expressed in eggs tend to continue throughout the resulting organism's entire lives, so flies from mothers drugged with Hydralazine will suffer from lifelong hypomethylation if the drug is able to successfully influence methylation in the eggs from which they develop. This will cause the flies to be weak and unhealthy, as their traditionally methylated genes will no longer be suppressed. For example, their proto-oncogenes, which promote uncontrolled cell division and tumor growth, will not be suppressed, leading to the growth of cancer-like tumors. To assess the overall health of the flies, I will use the percent hatching value obtained from the female fertility assay, the results of the negative geotaxis assay, and the percent eclosion value obtained from developmental data. So, my essential question is, “How will the presence of a methylation-inhibiting drug (Hydralazine) in the diets of female fruit flies affect the lifelong gene expression and overall health of their offspring?”
Hi everyone, welcome back! Just wanted to let you know I’m not really sure why I’ve made so many song references, but I like it. Anyway, you might be wondering what’s happened since the last blog? Well, LOTS. We’ve made food vials, stressed vials, ran assays (fancy word for test), analyzed data, presented our information, and have even drawn to get us ready for our graphical abstracts.
Instead of just starting out independent research projects from day one, we began with screens to help us learn and improve upon skills we would need in order to be successful in the lab. My screen was intended to test the impact of Rhodiola (an herb that grows in cold regions that has been used to treat depression and fatigue) and constant darkness on social space. The assay measured the distance between flies, the closer the flies, the more social they are, flies naturally are very social so it was no surprise to find the control flies (no drug, no stressor) right next to each other, but it was interesting to see that Rhodiola and constant darkness canceled each other out.
As our screens come to an end, it is now time to start thinking of what we signed ourselves up to do on a Saturday (pretty crazy right, going to school even on a Saturday). For my independent research project I had a few ideas floating through my head, does Coca-Cola tremendously impact fly health, does oregano oil helps with sickness, does cinnamon help with memory? All these questions were racing through my head, but I wanted to do something that mattered, something that I could relate to my life. Something like memory. Memory has always intrigued me. How is it that we can remember every lyric to a song from five years ago, but can’t remember the Trig integrals that are needed for a test next period? It’s mind-boggling how amazing our memory really is. But eventually that memory isn’t as great as it used to be, first it’s where did I leave the keys, then it’s what day is it, and eventually, it might even be who are you to a loved one. Cinnamon according to my sister has an amazing impact on memory, so much so that her coffee usually tastes more like cinnamon than coffee. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the impact of cinnamon on larval memory, to see if a spice really does help, to see if I should start eating cinnamon buns on a daily basis? (Hopefully the results say yes!)
It seems like only yesterday since I walked into this program, but time flies when you are having a good time. Despite my incessant yawning every morning for the past 4 weeks (sorry, Dr. Purdy), I am so far having an immense amount of fun and learning a whole lot with my peers.
In order to eclose out of my rookie shell, I had to go through a couple steps of learning about fruit flies, assays, lab materials and techniques, and presentation skills. This was all encompassed in my first experiment: testing the effect of valerian and constant darkness exposure on the social behavior of fruit flies. I created four vials with fly food, two of which contained a small dosage of valerian - a drug that causes drowsiness and reduces stress. One of the vials with the drug and another without the drug was wrapped around with tinfoil to cause constant darkness. A week later, I used the Social Space Assay to determine the average distance between the flies in each treatment group. The closer the distance, the more socially active and happy the flies are indicated to be. It was interesting to see that the flies who were treated with the drug were in fact, on average, closer to each other compared to those who were not treated with the drug. I then presented my findings and tips about my assay to my peers, which was good practice for the final presentation that I will have at the end of this program (please come to the Symposium!!).
Now as a p”woo”pa, I am mature enough to design my own independent project that I will be working on for the rest of the program. I wanted to address a growing concern of the juuling/vaping epidemic that is prevalent especially among students in high school. Despite the claims that it does not have a negative influence on their physical health, I wanted to investigate how the addiction could have a correlation to impulsive behavior and irrational risk-taking actions. In order to test something that can counter this addiction, I am also planning on using the drug haloperidol. Haloperidol can bind to certain dopamine receptors that are related to impulsive behaviors, preventing them from being activated by dopamine released due to nicotine.
Although these plans are not finalized, that is my initial plan for the future. I hope you keep following up on my story to the end!
Hi again! I’m back to tell you all about my experiences so far in TRIP and my upcoming independent project.
So far, TRIP has been an amazing experience from the new people I have met to the cool things I have learned. At first, the piles of fruit flies we had to sort were pretty disgusting but I think I’m pretty much desensitized to the sight now. The first assay I did was the negative geotaxis assay where I tested the effects of head trauma and ginkgo biloba on the flies. The experience has taught me a lot about how to handle the flies, research techniques, how to effectively communicate my ideas, and overall made me more curious about research. I can’t wait for the coming weeks when I can test out and answer my own questions!
For the next several weeks, I will be trying to answer the question: How are fly activity and memory affected by constant darkness and can adrafinil reverse these effects? Commercial and military pilots often have to endure long flights causing disruptions to their circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. As a result, some pilots opt to take a prescription drug called modafinil that essentially makes them more alert and focused. However, because I don’t have access to modafinil, I want to see how adrafinil -- which is similar to modafinil but has decreased effects and acts more slowly -- would work to counter the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm. This topic is important because it is critical that pilots stay awake and alert at all times (as you probably know), so it is necessary to find a variety of dietary/drug supplements that can keep pilots focused on the job.
I will test the effectiveness of adrafinil through the use of a negative geotaxis assay to analyze the relative activity levels of the flies. I will also perform an adult fly memory assay to see the effects a disrupted circadian cycle and the drug on the memory of the flies. We’ll see how it goes!
For my independent project I was stuck between two ideas: testing addictions on flies and testing how certain substances affect female fertility and embryonic development. After contemplating each idea, I decided to combine them. The question I ended up creating tests if fenugreek, a natural remedy, can ameliorate the negative impact of caffeine on fertility. Among the top ten addictions in the United States is coffee. Did you know that an average American drinks 3 cups of coffee each day? A 8-oz cup of coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine, so 3 cups of coffee contains 285 mg of caffeine which is almost 75% of a lethal dose (400 mg) of caffeine! When I was researching, I read that caffeine consumption above 200 mg during pregnancy could potentially lead to birth defects in the child. On the flip side, fenugreek is a natural herbal remedy that is traditionally used to increase fertility. I decided to test a natural remedy rather than a medication because it’s a part of my culture and I wanted to incorporate a part of myself into my research. In the Indian culture we use a variety of spices in our foods and many of which have tremendous health benefits, like turmeric and fenugreek.
To test whether fenugreek will lessen the harmful impact of caffeine on fertility and development, I will use the female fertility assay. The female fertility assay quantifies the number of embryos laid per female and the percent of embryos that hatch into larvae. Comparing these results with the control will tell me how each substance or combination of substances impacts the beginning of the life cycle. I hypothesized that the effects of caffeine wouldn’t completely vanish, but the addition of fenugreek into the diet will lessen the extent to which caffeine decreases oogenesis and embryogenesis. If my hypothesis is correct, the caffeine+fenugreek experimental group should lay less embryos per female and a fewer percent of embryos should hatch than that of the control.
Who knows what my research will hold for me and how the results will come out? I can’t wait to get started on my independent project, conquer my failures, and learn a lot throughout the next twelve weeks! Stay tuned for the results!